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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 17 December 2017

"Beautiful people" by Simon Doonan

A memoir previously published as 'Nasty'.

Doonan was born in 1952 in Reading; his childhood was spent in poverty in one of the grimmest and most joyless tdecades in recent history. Child care was in the local orphanage. Family life was spent in the company of schizophrenic truth telling granny who, when Simon was five, told him there was no Santa Claus and that he would one day die, schizophrenic Uncle Ken and a weird assortment of lodgers including blind Phyllis whose skull Simon fractured.

And he was gay.

This story veers between the bleakness of his childhood surroundings and the camp fabulosity of his later life living with an assortment of men including drag queen Biddie. The characters are unbelievably brilliant and the descriptions original and exact. This is the observational comedy of an accomplished stand up comedian (he is a window display designed). It reads like Gerald Durrell's Our Family and Other Animals on speed.

There are some haunting moments:
  • Trying to flee from justice by running, in platform heels, across Blackpool's sandy beach
  • Being arrested for drunk-driving while wearing bondage gear by two LA cops who couldn't stoip giggling
  • Teddy's birthday
  • Butlins: holiday camp.
  • Blind Aunt Phyllis
  • His boyfriend dying from AIDS

A few of the ab fab darling lines:
  • She sneezed and her dentures flew out. They hit the kitchen door with a sharp clack! and then rattled sideways across the linoleum floor like a fleeing crustacean.” (p 1) 
  • In Reading, our industrial hometown, there was no shortage of dreary here and nows.” (p 6)
  • From an early age, I was excessively focused on obtaining the freedom which comes with having a bit of extra cash in my pocket, and was prepared to do whatever it took to get it.” (p 9)
  • we were suffering from a unique mixture of high and low self-esteem.” (p 16)
  • She was not one of the Beautiful People. She was one of the unsavory people.” (p 24) 
  • Edvard Grieg’s ominous, throbbing anthem ... gave our morning gatherings a distinct feeling of impending folkloric genocide.” (p 40)
  • The message was simple: the more grim life is, the more character building will be it effect.” (p 40)
  • Entering a room as if one was entering a room was so much more amusing and exhilarating than just entering a room.” (p 86)
  • We had so much more fun because we were behaving as if we were having fun.” (p 86)
  • life is a stage set, a really tacky, faded stage set.” (p 92)
  • our house resembled a crack den a full fifteen years before the advent of crack.” (p 136)
  • ‘Scrape’ is the accumulated, lard-infused, crunchy material which coagulates in the frying pan during the course of cooking other items.” (p 149)
  • Being incarcerated is such a vile experience that it is impossible to understand the whole concept of career criminals.” (p 209)
  • There is no such thing as a young fart.” (p 264)
December 2017; 284 pages

Other memoirs reviewed in this blog include (in order of how much I enjoyed them, favourites first):
  • Memoir of the Bobotes: by Joyce Cary: a brilliantly written memoir of the author's time as a medical officer during the Balkan Wars (pre World War I): the writer became a novelist and his craft shows; full of humour and keen observation
  • My Family and Other Animals (and the sequels) by Gerald Durrell: Beautiful descriptions and hilarious accounts of an eccentric family living on the Greek Island of Corfu between WWI and WWII
  • A Pattern of Islands by Arthur Grimble: a well-written, frequently humourous account of Pacific paradise
  • Bus Stop Symi by William Travis: the account of three years spent on the remote and at the time unspoilt Greek island of Symi: well-written, charming and amusing
  • Surprised by Joy by C S Lewis: an account of the famous author's life, mostly from the perspective of his Christianity: beautifully written
  • A Death in the Family by Karl-Ove Knausgard: the first volume of a series in which the author, in the guise of writing novels, portrays real people with real names: the writing is brilliant
  • Beautiful People by Simon Doonan: The story of a young gay man: well-written with moments of marvellous humour
  • Teacher Man by Frank McCourt: the third volume in the series that started with Angela's Ashes
  • The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice by Polly Coles: a reasonably well-written account of a year spent living in Venice
  • A Detail on the Burma Front by Winifred Beaumont: a nurse's story from one of the theatres of World War II: more compassion and humour: reasonably well-written
  • Whatever Happened to Margo: Margaret Durrell's account of running a boarding house in Bournemouth: sometimes muddled but often funny
  • Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two by Maggie Smith-Bendell: an interesting and reasonably well-written account of a Romani Gypsy childhood
  • Not for the faint-hearted by John Stevens: the autobiography of a senior police officer; probably best for those most interested in this sort of story
  • Forty Years Catching Smugglers by Malcolm Nelson: the memoirs of a senior customs officer; probably best for those most interested in this sort of story

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